A wedding party stand in front of the main house at Gunby Hall National Trust Wedding venue for a group shot

Group photos. Are They Important & Do We Need Them?

Group shots. Formal wedding photos. Group wedding photographs. Whatever you call them, these posed, traditional wedding photos are something that all of my couples ask about. The idea of of smiling for endless photos as groups of relatives and friends are whisked in and out for hours is the opposite of why couples book me to photograph their wedding. Unposed, authentic photos are what I do best and are the dominant trend in wedding photography. However, I feel formal weddings photos are an important part of every wedding day and when done correctly are something that is quick, painless, and creates beautiful memories for your family.

We’ve All Been to That Wedding with Endless Formal Photographs

We’ve all been there. That wedding where the bride and groom disappear for photos, only to emerge hours later looking battle-scarred and signalling for someone to get them a drink and quickly. We’ve all been in those lines where you shuffle towards the camera, being pulled through endless combinations by the photographer (“Next up, can we get all cousins who were born on a Monday please?”). What makes it even worse is that the best-looking canapés always seem to go past when you are standing there being asked to “smile for the camera”. If you are not careful formal photos can become hell. The key thing to remember is, they don’t have to be.

Group Photos Are Associated with Traditional (Old Fashioned) Wedding Photographers.

Wedding photography has got so much more creative. Couples are looking for a wedding photographer who captures the true emotions of their wedding day. Terms like “formal wedding photography” or “group shots” simply don’t fit into this style. Groups shots never make the pages of wedding blogs and some of the popular wedding blogs rally against this style of formal wedding photography altogether. Simply put, it is not considered cool. 

For many couples, this is the part of the day that they think will feel uncomfortable and most awkward. The idea of posing for photos is one of the things I find that most couples are worried about when I talk to them. You don’t need to worry.

Wedding Group Shots Become Family History 

When you look at your parent’s wedding photos, you get to see people as you have never seen them. Grandparents look younger than you can ever remember. Your aunties and uncles look young and beautiful as bridesmaids and groomsmen. The photos feel instantly familiar, but somehow completely alien. What they always do though, is make you smile and fill you with wonder. Great photos always do that and although formal wedding photos are not the most artistic or authentic photos you will have from your wedding day, they are always the ones that create the warm, fuzzy feeling when viewed years later. 

Your wedding photos become that history for every person who comes after you. It also keeps your parents happy, which is worth its weight in gold.

A wedding party stand in front of the main house at Gunby Hall National Trust Wedding venue for a group shot

How To Get Hassle-Free Formal Wedding Photos 

The key is planning & priorities. It is easy to get a list of formal photos that number into the twenties but if you work on each group photograph taking between 3-5 minutes, you can easily lose well over an hour of your wedding day posing for group shots. 

I would recommend that you & your fiancé create a small list of 5 – 10 must-have photos (I have some ideas for a list below to get you started). When you have your list, in my experience, it is also worth talking with both sets of parents. This way you can make sure they are happy and aware of your wishes with regard to group shots. If your parents are aware that you want to limit them (and more importantly, understand why), it will help with those “Oh you just need one with…..” moments that can occur during the day.

The best way of gathering everyone for groups shots is to designate one member of the bridal party to be on hand to assist with finding people. This way, it helps keep the photo session moving along and means you can get back to your party sooner. 

Although they can appear daunting, years of experience mean I have ways of making the group shots quick and even enjoyable. I can help to make sure you have a glass of fizz if you want one and that you both have a constant supply of canapés.

A group photo of the groom and his groomsmen in a garden setting

What Are The Key Group Wedding Photos?

Bearing in mind the above point on keeping your group shots between 5 & 10, here is the “must-have” list I recommend to my wedding couples when starting their lists of group shots. 

  • Couple + Bride’s parents
  • Couple + Grooms parents
  • Couple + Both Parents & siblings (plus partners and kids)
  • Couple + Bridal Party 
  • Bride + bridesmaids (and flower girls)
  • Groom + Groomsmen
  • Couple + Grandparents

This gives the must-have formal photos but also keeps things quick and painless for you as a couple. There is room to add more, it just means you need to allow more time on your wedding day for this. 

The Big Group Wedding Photo. Do I Need it & When Do I Take It?

The group wedding photo. There is always someone who is just ordering a drink at the bar (and someone else in the toilet) so these shots usually take a while to organise. If you want this photo on your wedding day, I would recommend doing it as early as possible, as once your guests arrive at your wedding reception they tend to split up and be harder to get together for this photo.

The key question is, do you really want this photo? It will usually take 15 to 20 minutes to get everyone into position (the more guests you have, the longer it takes). It is not a case of recommending you have or don’t have this photo, as it can look great, just understand that this shot can take as long (or longer) than all of the 7 group shots listed above, so it is something you will need to plan into your wedding day timeline.

a group photo of a wedding party shot on a deon

How Long Do Wedding Group Shots Take?

Based on the seven group photos that I recommend above, I would suggest you allow 30 minutes (it normally takes a little less than this depending on how long it takes everyone to get into position). If you want to add more to the list, a good rule of thumb is adding 5 minutes per photo. If you want a group shot of all your guests, I would suggest allowing around 20 minutes for this photo.

As your wedding photographer, my aim is to make sure that you have enough time to get the photos you want on your day. I also want you to love your formal photos. The key isn’t limiting you to a certain number, it is helping you know how much time it will take, allowing you to plan it into your wedding day timeline.

If You Really Don’t Want Group Photos, You Don’t Need Them.

I know this is a post about formal photos. You may have read it because you are unsure or you and your partner aren’t keen but parents are insistent. Having read it you may decide you don’t want any formal photos on your wedding day, and that’s fine. The key is for you to do you.

As your wedding photographer, I make sure you have several amazing photos of all of your family & friends enjoying your day in my candid, relaxed style. If you don’t want group shots, you can enjoy your day, knowing I will be in the background getting amazing, emotion-filled photos of you with your friends and family on your wedding day.

AS grandfather embraces his daughter with complete adoration on her wedding day.

There is a mid-point between no formal wedding photos and having to stand there for hours with a constantly dropping smile as group after group of family, relatives & friends are posed, whilst you watch your guests enjoy all the amazing snacks you chose for your drinks reception. 

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